Wednesday, March 5, became the day to “spread the word to end the word.” What word are people referring to? Well, those who are opposed to it simply refer to it as the “r-word,” but most people commonly know it as “retard(ed).”

The campaign, whose official website already has 459,069 online pledges, is asking others to join the pledge in order to create a “more accepting” attitude for all people. They beckon, “Pledge today to use respectful, people-first language.”

“Intellectually disabled” has now replaced “mental retardation” after “retard” became a slang word. “MR” is a label that was given to those with intellectual disabilities by doctors and psychologists, but the r-word has morphed into something that is hurtful, discriminatory and demeaning to people who are intellectually disabled; it also affects their friends and families.  

Krissy Ikonnikow of Lake Grove, N.Y., knows how deep the r-word can sting. Ikonnikow, whose brother, Mikey, is intellectually disabled, explained to the International Business Times that she would like to see it removed from people’s personal language.

“It's really important to get the word out there and give a voice to people with intellectual disabilities who may not have the words to express themselves about the hurt and stigma that comes with people using the ‘r-word,’” Ikonnikow explained. “People don't realize sometimes that their choice of words can hurt others.”

Mikey, 25, was diagnosed at birth with a rare chromosomal syndrome, but Ikonnikow only has one word to describe her brother: “inspiring.”

“The only word that I would use to describe my brother would be inspiring because he overcomes adversity every day and does it with a smile on his face.”

For those who want to take the pledge against the r-word, click here.

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